We’ve been able to be creative with how we do things (one perk of 2020) and so we did a digital interview with this incredible soul who we have to give 100% credit to for the beautifully written interview below. Marc has a way with words and expressing themselves and we are so grateful to share their experiences below.
My name is Marc, and my pronouns are he/they. I grew up on Bundjalung country, in the northern rivers of NSW, and moved to Brisbane in 2013.
Tell us about growing up and how that looked for you through the years...
I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, a religious sect where queerness was seen as sinful and taboo. Gay people who had been ‘disfellowshipped’ (shunned from the church community and family) were gossiped about in whispers after service, and only welcomed back once they had proven their faith by renouncing their identity. It was made very explicit that queer people were denied access to family and community, which is really scary on reflection, but we didn’t know it could be any better back then. I’ve reconnected with a few queer ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses since, and they are living vibrant, authentic lives with a range of spiritualities.
I came out as gay to people once I’d started dating my first boyfriend. I was 19 and had just finished high school. My closest friends and older sister were pretty relaxed about it, but I remember my mum stopping the car in the middle of a highway and turning to me in disbelief - ‘hang on… what?!’
The first responses were the same ones I’ve heard in lots of coming out stories: (‘are you sure?’, ‘your father will blame me for this…’, ‘it’s his fault, actually!’). Over time, mum grew past her discomfort and became a great support to me, and to other people in her life, too. I told my dad in a letter after he became a senior member of the church and moved to Canada. It was good to tell him, but his response wasn’t what I needed to support an ongoing relationship. I’m glad I waited until I was independent to come out.
I came out as gender diverse pretty recently. It feels a lot messier and almost more vulnerable than the first time, as I’m not really sure how to define or explain my gender, and I’m always worried about taking up space, or feeling like I’m not ‘trans enough’. As my beautiful queer friends have explained, though, this is absolutely a common part of the experience! I don’t know how this part of my identity will develop, but I’m learning so much about my gender identity that was hidden, explained away, or unexplored due to a lack of safety.
Tell us a bit about some significant challenges you have faced along the way?
My biggest challenge was probably being set back socially from my peers from having to be so careful while growing up. I missed out on so many opportunities, and didn’t develop a lot of useful skills until I was a bit older.
Growing up queer in a rural area also sets a really low bar for expectations - I accepted several relationships that weren’t great for me, or said yes when I meant no, because I couldn’t imagine ever finding anything better.
Once I realised there was more out there, I spent a lot of time feeling like I was missing out, and that was hard. But when things started to get better, each thing led to another, and they really took off.
What were some really beautiful moments that stand out for you?
I still remember the first time I met queer people at a social group meetup in Brisbane (thanks, SameSame online forums!) ten years ago. It took me over an hour to drive and catch the train there, and it was so frightening and so exciting - they were fabulous and awkward, joyful and angry, and for the first time in my life, I felt like someone was looking at me with desire. Hallelujah. Terrifying.
Other highlights were those small and big moments where I felt so much gratitude that I’m queer, where I felt valued, seen and respected by other people in my community, or when I started experiencing nourishing, balanced partnerships.
Sitting at a table playing D&D with a bunch of other queer nerds is pretty cool, too.
Were there any support systems/people that really helped/still help you along the way?
Active queer community was such a big part of healing for me. I went from having no connections to meeting my first friends, then friends of friends, working in queer spaces, volunteering at queer orgs, and finding the pockets of community that worked for me instead of trying to squeeze myself into subcultures that weren’t my vibe. It was grounding to never let any part of my life become 100% of who I was.
I also had the privilege of meeting a series of fantastic mentors - older queer people who had kind voices, great stories, strong boundaries and confident politics. They set a really good example of how to be a queer elder, live authentically, and show love sustainably. After that, I could finally imagine myself having a long and happy life.
I also cannot understate the impact of good therapy - there are real barriers to access for young LGBTIQAP+ Brotherboys and Sistergirls, but the payoffs of a healthy therapeutic relationship can be transformative.
What were some strong learning moments for you?
The biggest thing that comes up for me when I see this question is the theme of looking at other queer people and thinking ‘I didn’t realise we could be that way!’ There are so many benefits to having a diversity of connections in our lives, and seeing the countless ways of living and being happening all around us that we can borrow from like little gay magpies.
The more interested I became in other people, the more I recognised how other members of the community faced barriers and struggles that I didn’t have to.
If it’s not obvious yet, relationships are generally how I learn and grow best. The biggest learning curves (how to hold boundaries, ask for what I need, manage my insecurity, love sustainably, and own my trauma) came with some big spills, and taught me how important it is to have a personalised mental health care plan.
What are you grateful for at this moment in time?
I’m most grateful for the loving people I’ve found, and the many ways I’ve been invited into community by so many acts of kindness over the years. Especially in the beginning, when I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted, or what I should be doing.
Also the internet. Because queers make the best memes.
Interview conducted January 2021. Photography by Shaye Austin